Swiss Expert: Is Europe Helping Kiev Play with Nuclear Fire?

Military experts have characterized the recent attacks by Ukraine against the Russia air bases near Saratov and Ryazan as provoking a “dangerous moment of insecurity” – up to the level of potential strategic nuclear confrontation. In an article posted on Jan.3 on the Swiss website GlobalBridge, entitled (in translation) “Playing with Atomic Fire”, Lt.Colonel (ret) Ralph Bosshard of the Swiss Armed Forces points to the fact that these are the peacetime bases for Russia’s second-strike strategic bombers.

On Dec. 26, after a first attack on Dec. 5, Ukraine attacked the Engels airfield near Saratov, where the Tupolev 95 and Tupolev 160 strategic bombers are based. Their mission is to carry out a second strike against the United States via the Kola Peninsula, over which they would be refueled by tanker planes based at Diaghilev Air Base, near Ryazan, which was also hit by drone attacks on Dec. 26.

After reviewing how the Russian aircraft are deployed, Colonel Bosshard asks what military purpose Ukraine has in repeated attacks on the Engels air base. Although the U.S. government has always denied any involvement in the attacks, Moscow is unlikely to believe such statements, in his view. Russia’s general staff could assume that “the Ukrainians, commissioned by the Americans, are carrying out so-called probings, that is, tests of the air base’s defense readiness, in order to identify weaknesses in defense that can be exploited if necessary. Another interpretation would be that the attacks were a test run for a nuclear first strike…. Certainly the Russians are now working on countermeasures. They could include the decentralization and relocation of bombers to other airfields, together with the installation of dummies at Engels… A group of six Tupolev-95 bombers and Ilyushin-78 tankers have already been transferred from Saratov to Seryshevo, Russian sources reported. It would not be surprising if the Russians soon held a redeployment exercise to demonstrate that the bombers could reappear on NATO’s eastern border within hours.”

In terms of propaganda, Col Bosshard continues, the attacks bolster the “narrative that Ukraine is protecting Western Europe from a Russian invasion. However, the events of the last few months have shown that Ukraine is not in a position to protect Europe from a Russian nuclear strike — and neither are the Europeans. In this respect, the U.S. denial might correspond to reality: i.e., that a European country, and not the U.S., supported the Ukrainians in their attacks. It is primarily the Europeans who must have an interest in attacking Russian long-distance aircraft in Saratov and Ryazan.”

The Swiss expert concludes by noting that bomber planes are openly placed on peacetime locations as a measure of transparency. “If this transparency now disappears as a result of the recent attacks, it will not help European security, it will only create uncertainty, which is not appreciated when it comes to nuclear weapons…. This can be dangerous for all of Europe. Brussels, Washington and London should think about how far they want to escalate the war.”

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